Skip to main content
Log in

Effects of temporal variation in the risk of predation by least weasel (Mustela nivalis) on feeding behavior of field vole (Microtus agrestis)

  • Published:
Evolutionary Ecology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

Predation risk tends to vary in time. Thus prey animals face a problem of allocating feeding and antipredator effort across different risk situations. A recent model of Lima and Bednekoff (1999) predicts that a prey should allocate more feeding effort to low risk situations and more antipredator effort to high risk situations with increasing relative degree of risk in high risk situations (attack ratio). Furthermore when the proportion of time the prey spends in the high risk situation (p) increases, the prey have to eventually feed also in the high risk situations. However the increase in feeding effort in low risk situations should clearly exceed that in high risk situations as p increases. To test these predictions we measured feeding effort of field voles (Microtus agrestis) exposed to varying presence of least weasel (Mustela nivalis) and its feces in laboratory conditions. We generated quantitative predictions by estimating attack ratios from results of a pilot experiment. The model explained 15% of the observed variation in feeding effort of voles. Further analyses indicated that feeding effort was lower in high risk situations than in low risk situations at high attack ratio, but not at a lower one. Voles exposed to a presence of a weasel for extended periods showed signs of nutritional stress. Still we did not find any increase in feeding effort with increasing p. This was obviously due to the relatively low maximal p we used as we included only conditions likely to occur in nature.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  • Bolbroe, T., Jeppesen, L. and Leirs, H. (2000) Behavioural response of field voles under mustelid predation risk in the laboratory: more than neophobia. Ann. Zool. Fennici 37, 169–178.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borowski, Z. (1998a) Influence of predator odour on the feeding behaviour of the root vole (Microtus oeconomus Pallas, 1776). Can. J. Zool. 76, 1791–1794.

    Google Scholar 

  • Borowski, Z. (1998b) Influence of weasel (Mustela nivalis Linnaeus, 1766) odour on spatial behaviour of root voles (Microtus oeconomus Pallas, 1776). Can. J. Zool. 76, 1799–1804.

    Google Scholar 

  • Carlsen, M., Lodal, J., Leirs, H. and Jensen, T.S. (1999) The effect of predation risk on body weight in the field vole Microtus agrestis. Oikos 87, 277–285.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erlinge, S. (1974) Distribution, territoriality and numbers of the weasel Mustela nivalis in relation to prey abundance. Oikos 25, 308–314.

    Google Scholar 

  • Erlinge, S. and Widen, P. (1975) Hermelinens aktivitetmönster under hösten. Fauna och flora 70, 137–142.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gorman, M.L. (1984) The response of prey to stoat (Mustela erminea) scent. J. Zool. 202, 419–423.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hamilton, I.M. and Heithaus, M.R. (2001) The effects of temporal variation in predation risk on antipredator behavior: an empirical test using marine snails. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B 268, 2585–2588.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hansson, L. (1971) Habitat, food and population dynamics of the field vole Microtus agrestis (L.) in South Sweden. Viltrevy 8, 267–374.

    Google Scholar 

  • Houston, A.I., Mc Namara, J.M. and Hutchinson, J.M.C. (1993) General results concerning the trade-off between gaining energy and avoiding predation. Phil. Trans. Royal Soc. Lond. B. 341, 375–397.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jedrzejewski, W., Jedrzejewska, B., Zub, K. and Nowakowski, W.K. (2000) Activity patterns of radio-tracked weasels Mustela nivalis in Bialowieza National Park (E Poland). Ann. Zool. Fennici 37, 161–168.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kats, L.B. and Dill, L.M. (1998) The scent of death: chemosensory assessment of predation risk by prey animals. Ecoscience 5, 361–394.

    Google Scholar 

  • Korpimäki, E. and Norrdahl, K. (1998) Experimental reduction of predators reverses the crash phase of small-rodent cycles. Ecology 79, 2448–2455.

    Google Scholar 

  • Korpimäki, E., Koivunen, V. and Hakkarainen, H. (1996) Microhabitat use and behavior of voles under weasel and raptor predation risk: predator facilitation? Behav. Ecol. 7, 30–34.

    Google Scholar 

  • Koskela, E. and Ylönen, H. (1995) Supressed breeding in the field vole (Microtus agrestis): an adaption to cyclically fluctuating predation risk. Behav. Ecol. 6, 311–315.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lima, S.L. and Bedneko., P.A. (1999) Temporal variation in danger drives antipredator behavior: the predation risk allocation hypothesis. Am. Nat. 153, 549–659.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lin, Y.K. and Batzli, G.O. (1995) Predation on voles: an experimental approach. J. Mammal. 73, 1003–1012.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nyholm, E.S. (1959) Kärpästäja lumikosta ja niiden talvisista elinpiireistä. Suomen Riista 13, 106–116.

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons, G.J. and Bondrup-Nielsen, S. (1996) Experimental analysis of behaviour of meadow voles (Microtus pennsylvanicus) to odours of the short-tailed weasel (Mustela erminea). Ecoscience 3, 63–69.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pusenius, J. and Viitala, J. (1993) Varying spacing behaviour of breeding field voles, Microtus agrestis. Ann. Zool. Fennici 30, 143–152.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pusenius, J. and Ostfeld, R.S. (2000) Effects of stoat's presence and auditory cues indicating its presence on tree seedling predation by meadow voles. Oikos 91, 123–130.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sih, A. and McCarthy, T.M. (2002) Prey responses to pulses of risk and safety: testing the risk allocation hypothesis. Anim. Behav. 63, 437–443.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sundell, J., Norrdahl, K., Korpimäki, E. and Hanski, I. (2000) Functional response of the least weasel, Mustela nivalis nivalis. Oikos 90, 501–508.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Buskirk, J., Muller, C., Portmann, A. and Surbeck, M. (2002) A test of the risk allocation hypothesis: tadpole responses to temporal changes in predation risk. Behav. Ecol. 13, 526–530.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ylönen, H. (1989) Weasels Mustela nivalis suppress reproduction in cyclic bank voles Clethrionomys glareolus. Oikos 55, 138–140.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jyrki Pusenius.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Koivisto, E., Pusenius, J. Effects of temporal variation in the risk of predation by least weasel (Mustela nivalis) on feeding behavior of field vole (Microtus agrestis). Evolutionary Ecology 17, 477–489 (2003). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:EVEC.0000005594.40721.17

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/B:EVEC.0000005594.40721.17

Navigation